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Visit to Baghdad and Southern Iraq

15th February 2012

In January, directors Jane Moon and Robert Killick were able to visit Iraq – the first step in getting the project off the ground. Baghdad was the first port of call, where very positive discussions were had with the Chairman of the State Board for Antiquities and Heritage, who expressed his enthusiastic support for a new British excavation project in Iraq proper.

The next stage was to visit the Ur area, spending a few days based in Nasiriyah, which had an encouraging atmosphere of normality, and, notwithstanding news reports of unfortunate incidents on the nearby pilgrim route to Kerbala, seemed generally peaceful and settled. We visited Tell Khaiber (see image), which we only knew from satellite photographs and maps, and which we were delighted to find exceeded expectations. The site is undisturbed, with no signs of looting or robbing, and more extensive than we had first supposed. We were aware of one potential large public building, but now we know there are at least two! Tell Khaiber is therefore definitely confirmed as URAP’s choice of excavation site, and formal permission to begin operations is being obtained.

There was a valuable opportunity to talk to members of SBAH staff based in the Nasiriyah area. They have extensive knowledge of the local archaeology, and tremendous enthusiasm and commitment, and we look forward very much to working with and learning from them. Also on hand was the team from State University of New York, Stony Brook, just finishing their first season of excavations at nearby Tell Sakheriyah. We received much useful advice based on their experiences. By the time they return we aim to be working as well, and hope to be able to return their hospitality.

The project records its thanks to BISI for providing travel funding, to Dr. Ahmed Chalabi for generous provision of accommodation, transport and security for the visit, and to Professor Elizabeth Stone and her team for their hospitality and assistance at the Ur dighouse. For pictures, and an informal account of the visit, please read the blog.